Small theatres opting out of P.E.I.-run ticket system

Province inititating new surcharge for theatre tickets

CBC News, Feb 20, 2013 - Texte seulement disponible en anglais

Some theatre and event venues are opting out of the government-run ticket system, BoxOffice PEI, for the upcoming theatre season.

The service used to be offered for free to Island venues but the provincial government plans to change that. It's also charging patrons for the first time.

The new service fees would cost $0.25 per ticket or a $250 dollar annual fee for venues.

Patrons would see a charge of $1.50 per order for tickets under $20 and $3 dollars per order for tickets over $20 dollars.

The decision has some smaller venues like The Montgomery Theatre opting out and moving to another ticket service.

Kady Brown, administrator at the Montgomery Theatre, said small non-profit theatres like hers need to stretch every penny.

"We are struggling, we're making it happen, we're working really hard to be successful," she said. "We've had to up our ticket prices as a start anyways by a couple dollars this year and when you add on [Harmonized Sales Tax] that will be charged this year, and also any additional fees for online transactions, it can be a lot to ask of your patrons in one year. We don't want to overwhelm our patrons."

Montgomery and several other small theatres would like the free government service to continue.

But Andrew Sprague, a spokesperson for the PEI Department of Tourism, said the government has to recover costs.

"We went through a fairly major technological upgrade between last year and this year and as a result of that we made the decision to start charging small administration fees to help cover the technological expenses and the administrative expenses that government incurs by offering service," he said.

The Montgomery Theatre as well as The Guild Charlottetown have decided to use the ticket service Ticketpro instead.

Ticketpro charges similar user fees to customers but less to venues.

Brown said there are other benefits to using Ticketpro.

"It gives us Canada-wide marketing, which is a great benefit," she said.

Alanna Jankov, The Guild's director, said Ticketpro is also offering the theatre sponsorship money.

But Sprague said the government believes it will still be the "cheapest option."

"That's very unfortunate. I'd be interested to see what the final bill was at the end of the day for venues that decided to use a privately-run service. I would expect that it would be a fair bit more expensive," he said.

Some venues still haven't decided which ticket agent to use. But as theatre season approaches, they'll have to make a decision soon.